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This next one comes off the first Bob Marley record I ever bought — vinyl, for those of you keeping track at home — back in 1982. It’s hard to grasp, really, how much the world has since changed in ways unimaginable to my then fourteen-year-old imagination. Back then, the lingering effects of colonialism were not only so very tangible in the way the world was organized, but still present in South Africa and elsewhere. With so much energy and attention directed towards defeating an ideology based on racism, it was easy to forget that the corrupting influence of power […]

GADHAFI REACHES OUT — In recent days, Washington has been the target of a mini-media blitz by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, including an op-ed piece in the New York Times and a video conference with Georgetown University students. The advertised purpose of both was to push Gadhafi’s idea of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, which he calls Isratine. But as commentator Dana Moss points out in the Guardian this week, the quirky Libyan leader is reaching out to the Obama administration “using his stance towards Israel as bait.” According to a Libyan source in Tripoli, Gadhafi is disappointed […]

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A friend of mine in Uganda, journalist Angelo Izama of the Daily Monitor, got a look at solid evidence the appointee for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs will be former ambassador and National Intelligence Council officer Johnnie Carson. He will replace outgoing secretary Jendayi Frazer. It appears Laura Rozen broke this a few days earlier at her new home with Foreign Policy. As Izama notes, Carson has an extremely solid background, most notably having served as an ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Uganda. Carson’s more detailed bio is here. Since 2006 he’s headed the Africa desk at the […]

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The inauguration of President Barack Obama was filled with tremendously moving images, perhaps none more striking than the crowds who gathered in Kogelo, Kenya — the birthplace of Obama’s father — to watch the ceremony. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the South African newspaper Business Day both compared Obama’s election to that of Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president in South Africa. As elsewhere in the world, Obama’s task will be to maintain that enthusiasm in the face of real challenges. Although Africa has been billed as one of the Bush administration’s foreign policy successes, three conflicts continue to dominate […]

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – It is uncertain what effect last week’s arrest of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel leader Laurent Nkunda will have on peace prospects in Africa’s third largest country, where more than 5 million people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since internal fighting began a decade ago. While some people have hailed it as the biggest step yet toward ending one of Africa’s worst civil wars ever, others suggest that any celebration must wait until the new-found alliance between Rwanda and Congo proves durable. Nkunda, a 41-year-old former DRC army general who has led […]

ICC TRIAL TO TAKE AIM AT CHILD SOLDIER USE — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court hope the impending trial of Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga will focus international attention on the plight of child soldiers, and serve as a warning to others around the world that use of children in combat will result in prosecution. Lubanga is charged with three counts of war crimes for recruiting child soldiers into the armed wing of his Union of Congolese Patriots group. Hundreds of children as young as 10, prosecutors charge, were kidnapped or recruited by Lubanga, then beaten, […]

While the United States and most of the world celebrated the inauguration of Barack Obama, the people of Zimbabwe were once again being pushed to the brink. Talks between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai have broken down over several key issues, prompting Tsvangarai to say: “For us as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), this is probably the darkest day of our lives, for the whole nation is waiting.” At the heart of the dispute is control of key ministries in the power-sharing arrangement being pushed by the South African Development Community (SADC) and its chief mediator, […]

In her Senate confirmation hearing last week, incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that American foreign policy under President Barack Obama must blend military, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, in equal measure. “We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal.” While consistent with Obama’s longstanding call for greater international cooperation to address the world’s problems, the idea of “smart power” gained widespread popularity in military and diplomatic circles during George W. Bush’s second term. Obama’s national-power strategy represents an evolution, not a revolution. At a speech at Kansas State University in […]

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It’s always advisable to take Iranian claims of potential commercial agreements in its energy sector with a gran of salt. But the recent South Africa-Iran trade talks do seem to point to what Nikolas Gvosdev identified as the weak link in the whole League of Democracies concept floated during the U.S. presidential election. Namely, that the South-South perspective in particular, and emerging powers’ interests more broadly, don’t necessarily correspond with the American agenda to isolate “rogue” nations. Not surprisingly, sovereignty and non-interventionism are pretty important issues to countries that identify as much with the intervenees as with the interveners.

In recent weeks there has been a notable — and positive — political event in Africa that does not involve the disaster zones of Somalia, Sudan, or Zimbabwe. On Jan. 7th, John Atta Mills, the candidate from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party, was inaugurated as Ghana’s president. He won a Dec. 28 runoff with 50.23 percent of the vote, beating Nana Akufo-Addo, representing the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), who won 49.77 percent. This election was clear evidence that Ghana’s democracy continues to mature. Despite the razor-thin win by the opposition candidate, there was no eruption of political […]

CAMBODIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY, BUT NO CLOSURE — Cambodia marked the 30th anniversary of the demise of the Khmer Rouge regime Jan. 7 with memorials for the suffering of millions. But the country remains haunted by the knowledge that perpetrators of Cambodia’s greatest crime have yet to stand trial for their crimes. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime held sway over Cambodia from 1975-1979, a period in which millions of Cambodians died from torture, overwork, starvation and executions. In early 1979, a joint Vietnamese-Cambodian force toppled the regime, bringing in a new government largely beholden to its Vietnamese allies. Some Cambodians object […]

War has evolved rapidly in the last 100 years, prompting historians and strategists to come up with new terms for new ways of fighting. They call mechanized warfare, which originated in the early 20th century, the third “generation” of war, and ideological warfare waged by guerilla groups the fourth. But what about guerilla-style warfare waged by non-ideological groups against traditional states — pirates, for instance, whose attacks can destabilize trade-dependent nations, but who don’t have strategic goals beyond just getting rich? Free-for-all violence, with indirect global effects, represents a fifth generation of war, according to some experts. And when it […]

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Last week, the old, stubborn Somali president resigned, clearing the prime minister to sign a peace agreement with moderate Islamists that represents the last chance for the U.S.-back government to hang onto power. Taking advantage of the political drama, and the accelerating withdrawal of the war-weary Ethiopian army-of-occupation, one of the two main hardline Islamic groups — the Islamic Courts — advanced into Mogadishu and began taking over vacant police stations. “We have to show commitment to do our part in security, we want to help people feel secure,” Abdirahim Issa Adow, an ICU spokesman, told a reporter. U.S. Africa […]

It is almost a year since Kenya erupted into violence following contested presidential elections. Up until then, it had been considered a beacon of stability in a troubled region of Africa. That is the case no longer. In the aftermath of the violence have emerged accusations and counter-accusations as to who was ultimately responsible. Members of Parliament, the media, the police force and even local government administrations have all been implicated at some stage, as Kenyans have tried to make sense of a crisis that reflected simmering ethnic tensions, driven by deep social grievances. Following the successful implementation of a […]

Pray for Zimbabweans. Their economy, shrinking for a decade, is suffering hyperinflation of more than 230 million percent. The government, which has no money to keep most primary and secondary schools open, has even closed down several hospitals during a cholera epidemic. The disease has left nearly 1,200 people dead and more than 23,000 others infected, according to the United Nations. With food, water, electricity and public services all scarce, Zimbabwe confirms Hobbes’ belief in the harshness of existence. President Robert Mugabe, the country’s sole leader since independence in 1980, deserves much of the blame. He has clung to power, […]